Wednesday, 20 March 2013

On location - Out of Sight Out of Mind

The location of my books is important to me. The setting is an essential part of the feel of the story. It may not always be geographically exact - the demands of the plot have to be met, so things get invented on a regular basis - but the atmosphere of a place is what matters. In order to share some of the locations for my debut novel, Never Coming Home, I created a location tour, featuring some key places in the book, with extra background on what they mean to me. You can find it at the top of the blog.

I intend to create a similar tour for Out of Sight Out of Mind and am currently assembling photographs. The book is set in London and Pembrokeshire, two very different locations. Until the tour goes live, I thought it might be good to say a little about the locations at this stage.

Uxbridge High Street
The book opens in one of the outer London boroughs - in Uxbridge - where I lived for a number of years. That was a while ago, and the place has changed quite a bit, and I proceeded to change it further. Specific buildings in the book, like the up-market apartments where Madison lives, are places I've created specially for the story - in keeping with what is there in real life, but not based on an existing place. I wanted a location that was London, but not in the centre and one where Madison's laboratory - also a figment of my imagination - could be created in an out-of-town setting - in this case, the Buckinghamshire countryside.

The second part of the book takes place in Wales, in Tenby and on the Pembrokeshire coast. Again the landmarks of Tenby, like the harbour and the castle are real, but specific locations, like the shop where Madison buys scented candles, are out of my imagination.

And then there are the beaches. I hope that anyone who knows that part of the world can identify with the atmosphere of the place. I wanted to re-created that, but I did not want to identify one particular beach or location too closely. Instead I've used what might be called a montage of elements from that part of the world. The reader is free to imagine Madison and Jay walking in the surf of a beach of their own choosing, or one out of their own imagination.

Many of my childhood holidays were spent around Tenby, and memories from those times have wound themselves into the book. There are miles of beautiful bays and inlets to chose from, but my father was a championship level sea fisherman, so visits always involved angling trips - and I have to say that the beaches that the fish seemed to prefer tended to be of the empty, wild and desolate type. As a child the presence of golden sand and ice cream was much more significant to me.

I like to set my books in warm, sunny places. In creating my 'essence of Pembrokeshire' I've leaned heavily on childhood memories of sunny days, and tried to re-create the feeling they invoked, but I was also able to call on a hint of that other, wilder side, when the plot demanded it. And there is one day in the book when the rain comes down in stair-rods, as only Welsh rain can. I remember those days too.

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